Rio Verde, AZ 85263
About Community Church of the Verdes
Our faith is summarized in the Apostles’ Creed:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit; born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion on saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
8:30 a.m. Sundays
The Community Church of the Verdes is committed to sharing the gifts which have been given to us with those beyond the walls of our building and our local community. To that end, we support a number of agencies each year (with a special emphasis on supporting children and families) and invite those agencies to join us in worship to share information about their work. We also join with the wider community each year to support a Habitat for Humanity building program, which was initiated by our church more than a decade ago and has the distinction of being one of the longest continuing Habitat programs in America.
Stephen Ministry; Alcoholics Anonymous; The Pad Project; Parents of Addicted Loved Ones. We also have a vibrant educational ministry which includes classes, Bible study and lectures. We also have a vibrant music ministry with a choir and a bell choir.
I am the Rev. Dr. Cathy Northrup, Pastor of Community Church of the Verdes, and I am just beginning this blog. I hope to contribute to it each week. Let me be clear about its purpose: it is not necessarily an informational site---for that, go to our website at www.verdefaith.org. The blog is a more personal site in a kind of conversational style. I hope you will read it, be provoked to reflection or action, and maybe even engage with me through my email, which can also be found on the church's website.
I thought I would reflect today on my schedule. A lot of people ask me what a pastor does all day, all week, with the kidding remark that we pastors "only work 20 minutes on Sunday." Well, my schedule includes visits with members and non-members, in my office or at their homes or in the hospital; meetings with committees and our Board; planning and preparation for worship with our Music Director; Bible study; writing sermons and liturgy, and of course so much more. I love the variety of my days and the interaction with people. It is good to try to help people see God working in their lives and think about how they might respond to God's call to them in their lives in various situations. I love what I do here in the Verdes, a more "hands on" kind of ministry rather than simply managing staff, etc.
This weekend, I also have the responsibility to lead a memorial service for a church member and dear friend. We will celebrate his life, mourn his loss, and witness to the promise of the resurrection. I will try to blend the person and the scripture in my remarks as we do so.
I have also begun writing a column for the Fountain Hills Times that will appear every other week. It shares the good news of the Bible in a way I hope will draw people in, and encourage them to read the Bible and attend a church that reads it. There are a number of such churches in Fountain Hills, and I am blessed to know their pastors through the FH Christian Ministerial Alliance, a special group of Christian leaders who meet monthly and keep connected and active throughout the year.
A couple of other interesting things happening......we are so glad to see organizations in our area fighting against human trafficking, as we had a lecturer here on that subject last year as well as giving some of our Endowment Fund draw to battle it; we are also glad to be newly involved with Justa Center, a center that works with homeless folks 55+ in Phoenix. The need is great, and the work goes on.
Talk with you next week. Be salt and light for God.
Grace and peace,
This past Sunday, I was busy here with worship and a memorial service so I missed a prayer walk in Fountain Hills with other ministers and Christians. The walk was to express our heartbreak at the laws which allow abortion up to, and now according to Virginia's Governor Northam, after the moment of birth, which is really infanticide. I am not getting political here; I am simply saying this kind of law is a tragedy.
But I don't want to stop there. If we are against abortion, we have a duty to do what we can to promote raising children in challenging circumstances, adoption, and other issues that support life.
That is my pondering for this week, but I also want to add something else. I invite you all to our worship service each Sunday at 8:30 am. This week, we will look at Sarai and her pregnant slave Hagar to see how God supports life, even in challenging circumstances. Also, each week we have wonderful and unique Bible studies. I lead one on at the church on Wednesday morning at 9, our Parish Associate leads one at the church on Tuesday mornings at 8 and Thursday afternoons at 4, and Ed Carpenter leads one for men on Thursday mornings at 7:30 at the Rio Verde Community Center. Come join us.
Grace and peace,
I went to see my neurologist yesterday after a recent health incident, and I smiled when I noticed his coffee cup. It said "Please do not confuse your Google search with my medical degree." I joked with him about it, because so many people go to the internet to look up their diagnoses and diseases and come up with all kinds of errant information.
The same, I think, is true for many things in life. We look at the internet as the source of all knowledge, and while it can be a very helpful tool, it's not perfect, it doesn't exercise judgment and maturity and discretion, and as with statistics, you can often find whatever you want to support whatever theory you want.
Do you want answers to the true questions and issues of life, or do you at least want to journey with people who are seeking those answers in God and his Word? Come join us at Community Church of the Verdes, for worship, study, mission, education, fellowship, service and more.
Grace and peace,
We had a speaker yesterday in our lecture series, Kenda Dean from Princeton Seminary. She spoke about what is alternatively called "delayed adulthood" or "prolonged adolescence." She talked about the importance of coming alongside young adults (18-34) where they are, acknowledging their gifts, and bringing them together for a purpose and for community.
I think that is something we can also do with younger "older adults" who are moving into our community who aren't churchgoers and have no experience with church. I hope we will think about that as a church as new folks come into our community. We value the church as Christians, but we also have to get out of it to be Christians and meet people where they are.
On another note, this Sunday I am concluding my sermon series on Sarah. We are looking at Genesis 23, where Sarah dies and a lot is made of where she is buried. That is because it is important that she is buried in the "promised" land, what will truly become known as The Promised Land, and that Abraham buys the cave and field so it is his. I was privileged to see this area on a 2013 trip to Israel. Hebron is not a place most folks can go. Over the cave is an Islamic mosque, and it was the site of some violence by an Israeli against Muslims at worship, so there is now tight security there from Israel. We (our group with some members of my church) were allowed to go there, and had to remove our shoes and wear a large covering, not quite a burka, and we saw the tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. What a powerful experience! Now we have the promise given to Abraham and Sarah fulfilled through Jesus Christ. What a powerful gift! Come hear more about this on Sunday at 8:30 in our worship service.
Grace and peace,
Today is Ash Wednesday, the day we begin the season of Lent. Our church will mark this day with a 3 p.m. service in which we are marked by ashes, the traditional Biblical symbol of repentance. To repent means, literally, to turn around, to turn away from sin and turn to Jesus Christ. He forgives us of our sin, and his Spirit empowers us to do good, especially to love God and love neighbor.
If we say we are Christians, are we witnesses to Christ? That is, do people see us loving God and neighbor? Do we act any differently than those who are not Christians? It has been said that a good example is the best sermon.
Think about that as you live your life today and every day. To whom or to what do you witness?
Come join us for our worship services during Lent on Sunday mornings at 8:30. Also, join us for our Maundy Thursday service at 7 and our Good Friday service at 3. On Palm Sunday, we will present a cantata written by me and our Director of Music, Tom Wojtas, and narrated by Tricia Wolber.
Grace and peace,
I am feeling a bit sad today, as our community and church have had so much serious illness this past week. I am thinking of a dear man who has a brain tumor, a friend who just had triple bypass, a fun guy who had a massive stroke, and another friend whose heart is deteriorating. I hate to see people in pain and suffering. I know God is with us, and we can learn in these processes, but I still hate it. I know dying is part of living, but I wish it didn't involve suffering for so many people. I know people are more prone to health issues as they age, but again, it can be hard to bear for those who love them. But we can love them, be with them, and pray for them.
I look forward to the life to come, and I think of that song "I Can Only Imagine." We saw the movie that tells the true story of the song's writing, and it was powerful. In the life to come, there will be no suffering, for tears and pain and sadness will be no more. This is such good news, just as the gospel is good news for us now and gives us abundant life.
So....tomorrow is a new day, and I have been renewed today by the beautiful warm sun, and the grace of the wonderful Son. I am grateful to be able to lead worship tomorrow with a church and community who stand together in joy and in sorrow, and we will strengthen each other by our fellowship. Come join us any Sunday. You will be welcomed and loved.
Grace and peace,
The news has been all abuzz around the college scandal. It was discovered that wealthy parents had paid to get their children admitted to certain schools, and the dishonesty involved college admission folks, college coaches, and others. The parents wanted to make sure their children got in the "right" schools no matter the cost or moral issues. And some of the children didn't even really want to go to college to learn---they went to "party" and to do such things as keep their Instagram account current!
This is so sad. It seems to be an extension of the "helicopter parent" that developed in the last few decades, parents who can't leave their children alone to learn the lessons of life and who hover over them and direct and "help" them in unhelpful ways. These parents also don't teach their children right and wrong, even such basics as the Ten Commandments. So the children learn from what their parents are doing, and the mistakes and sins pass on to the next generation.
I think here of some good Biblical lessons from Proverbs, verses that were often used at least in the past as confirmation verses, verses to guide children into adulthood when they become members of the church. My favorite is from Proverbs 3. Please read it below, and think about its importance.
In the meantime, you are always welcome at our church, and I hope it will be healing and refreshment for you.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
8 It will be a healing for your flesh
and a refreshment for your body.
Grace and peace,
March 28, 2019
Well, I found out at least one person reads my blog, because that person offered a good suggestion! He said I should date each entry, just to give folks an idea when it was written. So I have, above.
As many know, I am preaching a sermon series on knowing Jesus through our senses, a topic helpfully suggested by Matt Skinner. As I prepared my sermon for this week, knowing Jesus through hearing his voice, I came upon another helpful word from Deborah Sunoo. In a sermon, she addressed coming to know Jesus, and then she shared something about knowing God, and something especially good for us to offer to people who want to know God, who ask "what is God like?" She answered, "Jesus is what God is like."
In my sermon Sunday, I am speaking about Jesus as the Good Shepherd. I have highlighted Sunoo's words below about Jesus as the shepherd. Read her words, reflect on them, and then know, that is what God is like, Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
Grace and peace,
Jesus asks us,“Who do you say that I am?”
It turns out our answers really matter. Because a whole lot of people today – whether or not they’d ever consider themselves Christians –find themselves wondering about God. Even if they wouldn’t want anyone think them “religious,” they find themselves longing for a spiritual center of some kind. Some sort of grounding in a higher power or a greater purpose. Some sense of the divine. And answering the question “Who is Jesus?” can help us with that broader quest.
“What is God like? … Do you remember the time when there was a crowd gathered to hear Jesus and they were a long way from home and hungry, and Jesus fed them? That is what God is like. Do you remember when he took those little children on his lap and blessed them and talked to them and talked to their parents? That is what God is like. Do you remember when the leper came up to Jesus and said, “Please help me,” and he was made clean and healed? That is what God is like.
“Do you remember that time when Jesus was with the disciples and they were arguing about who was the chairman and who was the greatest? Jesus took a towel and a bowl of water, knelt down in front of them, and washed their feet. Do you remember that? That is what God is like.
“Do you remember when he took that old cross on his shoulder and started up the hill to Golgotha? That is what God is like.”
Can you imagine being trapped in complete darkness and then being given the gift of light? That light is what God is like. Can you imagine what it feels like to be a lost lamb, separated from its flock, terrified and alone, and then to be rescued by a good shepherd? That shepherd is what God is like. Can you imagine being ravenously hungry, starving even, and being given the gift of bread? That bread of life is what God is like.
April 4, 2019
Well, it has been an interesting few days. Such is the life of a minister. Last night, I went to our choir's spring party, at which they surprised our Music Director with an early 60th birthday party! What fun it was---at all the churches I have served, choirs always have the best parties! But next door, there was an emergency call to the home of a church member who had heart issues and died. She was a dear woman, well loved, with great faith, and she will be missed. So goes on life, life and death together.
Then, today, I met with some of our Board members and a new member to look forward to how we will continue growing as a congregation, in faith and witness, in spirituality and service, in attendance and numbers. We are pondering doing a survey to see why people do and don't come to our church, and to see what we can learn from that.
I also did some visiting, one man with a stroke in rehab and another on the edge of the next life, so again, on goes life, life and death together. I hold fast to the words at the end of the Presbyterian Brief Statement of Faith, "With believers in every time and place, we rejoice that nothing in life or in death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (See Romans 8 for the source.)
Finally, I put together a banner stand to hold our banner for Stephen Ministry, an important ministry in our congregation. This ministry matches trained Stephen Ministers for one on one confidential listening to folks going through times of difficulty. You can read about this on our church's website, www.verdefaith.org. Or, come meet some of the Stephen Leaders and Ministers in person by visiting our church one Sunday!
Grace and peace,
April 9, 2019
What fun we had here at the church last night! We hosted a bluegrass concert with Old Blue Band. It was free to the community, as we wanted to share the church and music with folks nearby and make them feel welcome here, as we all have been welcomed. The band played pure bluegrass, along with some gospel and waltzes and Christian music. You can find them on Facebook, and you can find them at porterbarnwood.com where they often have concerts. We hope to have them come see us again, and join us to lead the music in a summer worship service.
Speaking of music, we just this past week honored our Music Director Tom Wojtas for his 20 years of service here, first as an Organist, and then as Music Director. His long tenure has graced this church and helped see it through many transitions, as God's Spirit has held us together through time.
Even as we honor our history, I sense God's Spirit moving anew here in the church. We move forward as new things are happening and faith is growing. Come join us on this journey anytime!
Grace and peace,
April 16, 2019
Yesterday morning when I was working at my desk, a church member who will soon be traveling to France for a planned vacation called to alert me to the fire at Notre Dame. What a shock and what sadness. Notre Dame is such a beautiful church and so rich with history and symbolism. And how sad that this has happened over Holy Week.
As the spire on the steeple there fell, I thought of the hymn "Built on the Rock," especially its first line. The hymn's complete text is below. The text reminds us that the invisible church shall always prevail, as God shall, even though earthly churches may crumble over time or be destroyed. But the text also reminds us that the church is a special place to worship God.
I grieve for those who feel the damage at Notre Dame deeply in France. I am sure that the restoration will happen soon. And I am blessed that we here in the Verdes have such a beautiful sanctuary in which to worship and that we even have bells (a carillon) which ring at 8, 12, and 6. I am blessed, too, that we as a congregation are God's house of living stones, and I pray that we will always live that out. I hope you will come join us for worship this Holy Week on Maundy Thursday at 7 pm, Good Friday at 3, and Easter Sunday at 8:30 (or at the sunrise service in the garden at 6:30).
Grace and peace,
1 Built on the Rock, the church shall stand
even when steeples are falling;
Christ builds His church in ev'ry land;
bells still are chiming and calling,
calling the young and old to rest,
calling the souls of those distressed,
longing for life everlasting.
2 Not in a temple made with hands
God the Almighty is dwelling;
high in the heav'ns His temple stands,
all earthly temples excelling.
Yet He who dwells in heaven above
chooses to live with us in love,
making our body His temple.
3 We are God's house of living stones,
built for His own habitation;
He fills our hearts, His humble thrones,
granting us life and salvation.
Yet to the place, an earthly frame,
we come with thanks to praise His name;
God grants His people true blessing.
4 Thro' all the passing years, O Lord,
grant that, when church bells are ringing,
many may come to hear God's Word
where He the promise is bringing:
"I know My own, My own know Me,
you, not the world, My face shall see;
My peace I leave with you. Amen."
April 25, 2019
I am reflecting today on yet another sad piece of news: the terrorist killings at Christian churches in Sri Lanka. How horrible. Evil certainly exists. Yet God exists, too. In my weekly Bible study, we listened to the story of a man in Africa who was part of a terrorist gang. He was getting ready to blow up a group of Christians worshiping under a large tent when the word of God penetrated his heart, and he felt God's love and repented of his sins. The bombing did not happen, and this man is now a pastor. You can read his story in Out of the Black Shadows.
We know that God has defeated ultimately defeated evil in Jesus' death and resurrection, but we still have to face it today. It can be "out there," such as in the Sri Lankan attacks, or "in there," in our hearts. There are glimpses of God's kingdom when such evil is defeated. Let us open our eyes to such moments, pray for them, and work for them in our lives.
Along with evil, there is also pain when we lose someone we love. We know that death has ultimately been defeated, but we still have to face it now, too. Yet we as Christians can work to provide glimpses of God's goodness, and his kingdom, in the midst of such pain. Our church has Stephen Ministers who do this. These are men and women trained to provide weekly one on one confidential listening to walk with people through the journey of pain or loss or challenge, often when they lose a spouse or child. Our Stephen Ministers aren't always used by people, however, for they feel they should be able to handle pain on their own. Yet, whether they are called on or not, our Stephen Ministers are ready to serve. One of our Stephen Leaders recently compared them to firefighters, who are trained and ready to serve, but are not always called on, yet stay ready.
Friends, remember that God is good and has defeated the power of evil, sin, and death. Because of this, we trust in him and press on in life. I pray that you feel this way, too. But if you are not sure of this (or even if you are!), I invite you to come join us on our journey of pressing on here at Community Church of the Verdes. The "season" for "snowbirds" in this area is ending, but many of us remain here all year, calling ourselves the "broilers," so come and join us!
Grace and peace,
May 5, 2019
I was graciously invited to play in a golf tournament Friday at Westin Kierland, a tournament benefiting Folds of Honor, an organization that supports and provides scholarships to families of military persons killed in conflict. (If you don't know the organization, google it to see their good work.) It was a meaningful day, and we were honored to meet veterans, see jumpers parachute in to our festivities, and hear a widow speak about what Folds of Honor has done for her and her family.
Then yesterday, I played in our community Cinco de Mayo tournament, just a fun tournament with silly holes which including putting a lime and putting in around a sombrero. I thought yesterday how blessed I am to be able to have time, after our busy season, to golf on beautiful courses in beautiful weather with good people in a country which so many have fought and died for. I also thought how blessed I am to be back to good health after some challenges this spring. I really do appreciate each day.
Today, I am just out of worship on this Lord's Day. We took part in communion after remembering God's promises fulfilled in Jesus. We also looked outward as we shared scholarships with young people at Sunshine Acres and NPH (formerly Friends of the Orphans), and as we celebrated the Pad Project which helps young women in countries in Africa get an education.
I pray we all can appreciate each day. Thanks be to God for this beautiful day!
Grace and peace,
May 15, 2019
I staff our Stephen Ministry Group, and yesterday, I helped lead a Continuing Education session for the Stephen Ministers on using poetry for spiritual expression and growth for yourself and for your care receiver. We looked at what poetry is, people's experiences with it, and we tried writing some as well.
In college, I double majored in Religion and English, and my English major focus was in Creative Writing with an emphasis on poetry. So it was good to get back to poetry, and I shared the poem I wrote below. It allowed me to get out, think about, and process what I was feeling during a visit recently. Perhaps it will trigger something in you, perhaps even the impetus to read or write poetry yourself. To read, I recommend Robert Frost, e.e. cummings, Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry, and many more.....
Grace and peace,
a pastor visits
I was never very good
but I am most sorry now
I cannot understand
What you are saying
In this foreign tongue
You have developed
Into a far country
And returned to us
I can see in your eyes
And feel in your grip
That you have something to communicate
And I am most sorry now
I cannot understand
I can only listen
And tell you that I know
You want to tell me something
But I cannot understand
What it is
So I must be content
To connect with you
And then we pray
To connect with God
Who having been in that far country
Knows what you are saying
And knows of my sorrow
And gathers it all in
May 22, 2019
I have always experienced, as every leader does, the challenges of leadership. While the Christian ministry is unique, it also shares the challenge of "self-differentiation," as Edwin Friedman, a systems theorist, puts it. One must be whole and have integrity, and respond to others, but in the end, no leader can please everyone, and if a leader tries, they please no one.
As a minister, I often feel great love and probably sometimes undeserved praise from some people, I know that. I am blessed. And this church in particular is a great and loving community; I invite anyone to join us!
But there are times ministers, and I as a minister, feel criticism of those outside and inside the church. Sometimes this is deserved--I am not perfect, certainly, professionally or personally---but other times it is simply someone angry for some other reason. The church is not immune from this. As someone once wrote, in the church, I have seen the best of people and the worst of people. I try to work toward the health in the system, not the dis-ease.
At those times, I turn to God, who gives the peace that passes all understanding.
I also remember the quote from Teddy Roosevelt below.
Grace and peace,
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”